1. Cool: Bookr
Bookr is a tool that lets you create really neat embeddable photo flip-books from images on Flickr. If your blog frequently covers events, this is one of the best ways I’ve seen to include a group of photos in your post without overwhelming the user with a bunch of images or sending them away from your site with a Flickr album link. These things are incredibly easy to create. Check out the example below.
2. Useful: Docstoc [see our previous coverage of Docstoc, a Beverly Hills startup]
Docstoc describes itself as a Youtube for documents. The site has thousands of user-uploaded legal and business docs that can be searched, browsed and downloaded free of charge. What makes Docstoc such a useful tool for blogs is that all the documents are embeddable, allowing you to display pdfs, Word docs and Excel files in an intuitive flash reader from within your posts. Find a cool doc while browsing around Docstoc that your readers would be interested in? Maybe you run a blog about entrepreneurship and run across a great business template. Don’t link to it, embed it. On the flip side, if you have a doc that is relevant to one of your posts, upload it to docstoc and throw it on. Click here for Docstoc’s quick and easy embedding instructions. Here’s an example of a doc embedded with Docstoc:
3. Useful: Show Me Widget
When it comes to blogging, the importance of staying connected with the community cannot be understated. “Show Me” is a widget that displays links to all of your profiles on social networks around the web, providing a quick-and-easy way for your audience to connect with you and follow your content on multiple networks. This widget that won’t work quite as well for blogs with multiple authors (such as this one), but for personal blogs this is a great tool. Click the thumbnail to the left to see what “Show Me” looks like.
4. Cool: ClustrMaps
For a tool that has some of the most instant “wow” appeal out of all the widgets out there, check out ClustrMaps. After submitting your URL, ClustrMaps gives you embeddable code that will display who is currently viewing your blog by geographic location. By now, most of you have probably seen these around the blogosphere, and for good reason: the experience of having a truly global view of where your readers are coming from is awesome. Sure, we all know that the web is international, but being able to actually see where your visitors are coming from around the planet is a different story. The widget is free for sites that have less than 2,500 visitors daily.
5. Useful: Google Webmaster tools
If you at all serious about your blog, or even if you’re mildly interested in your audience/traffic, you need to be taking advantage of Google’s awesome webmaster tools. When beginning to utilize these tools, you should first go to web crawl diagnostics to make sure Google has indexed your site and doesn’t have any problems crawling your pages. Second, take a look at the top search queries page. It tells you which keywords people have been using to find your site. With this information in hand you can make an effort to tailor content around what your readers are interested in. Another tool that doesn’t fall in the same category of these but is a must-have is Google Analytics, a free, simple and powerful tool that gives you heaps of information about who is visiting your site and what they are doing on it. It’s a great way to get to know your audience. Combine all of Google’s tools and you’re on your way to becoming a very informed blogger.